a pair of hands holding a pile of mulch

How & When to Mulch Your Garden

Mulching is most commonly used as a means to improve the soil around plants, but it also gives your garden a beautiful, neat outlook, while often reducing the need to spend time on maintenance such as watering and weeding.


Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil during summer, prevents the appearance of pesky weeds and protects the roots of plants during the colder months.


What is Mulch?



Mulches are loose coverings of material that are placed over the surface of the cultivated soil. Mulches can be used to cover bare soil or applied to the surface of potted plants.


Depending on what kind of mulch you opt for, there are numerous benefits, which include:


  • Helping the soil lock in moisture over summer.
  • Suppressing weed invasion.
  • Improve the composition of the soil.
  • Deterring of pests.
  • Protect plant roots from high or low extremes in temperature.
  • Encourage healthy soil development.
  • Offers a decorative flourish.


Why Should I Mulch?


how mulch works diagram


As we’ve mentioned, there are many different advantages to mulching the soil on an annual basis. As we know, the mulch suppresses weed growth, which is not only good for aesthetic appeal, but it also prevents the roots of the weeds from sapping up the moisture.


Although some weeds can make a home for themselves on top of the mulch, the roots aren’t able to secure themselves and can be easily uprooted.


Although heavy rain can wash most of the goodness out of the soil, spreading mulch is the energiser the soil needs, because as the material begins to decompose all of that rich nutrients is released back into the earth. If applied over the wet ground during the spring, it will also help to maintain that moisture over summer. Particularly useful should we have another long, dry summer.


Mulches can also be used to protect bare rooted and delicate trees during winter to offer them a layer of warmth from the cold.


When to Apply Mulch?


a man raking mulch over soil


Mulches are best applied anywhere from late spring to early winter when the soil is still warm and moist. Avoid using the mulch in winter when the ground is too cold and when it is too warm in the summer.

How to Apply Mulch?


Beds and borders can be covered entirely in mulch, but you must take care not to overwhelm low growing plants or to pile up the mulch against the stems of woody plants.


To be productive, mulches need to be between two and three inches thick, and it must be laid over moist soil, after an intensive weeding session.


When planting new beds, planting through mulch sheets is very useful, but single trees and specimen plants should be mulched to the diameter of the canopy.


Biodegradable vs Non-Biodegradable Mulch



Biodegradable – Biodegradable mulch breaks down slowly to release essential nutrients to help improve the diversity in the soil. Layers need to be replaced once they have completely decomposed. The best materials for this are leaf mould, garden compost, straw, used mushroom compost, wood chips, seaweed and much more.


Non-Biodegradable – Non-biodegradable mulch doesn’t boost the fertility or improve the construction of the soil, but it will suppress weeds, lock in moisture and some types will have the benefit of looking a little more attractive.


Slate, shingle, gravel, stone chips and other similar materials are often used as a decorative mulch over beds. To allow irrigation, mulch sheets can be used underneath these materials to ensure the roots benefit from the added protection. 


What Problems Could I Encounter?


Laying mulch correctly presents no issue to your garden and the plants themselves, however, if it were to come into contact with the stems of the plants or trees, it could cause softening, which could make them vulnerable to disease.


It’s important to try to use high-quality ingredients if you’re making your own mulch, as there is a possibility of introducing more weeds, pests and disease into the garden, and by using woodchips, there could be a slight chance of introducing honey fungus into the garden.


Remember that once you’ve added mulch to the soil, you’ll need to apply more water to soak down to the roots in order for the plants to benefit.


If you’re looking to add extra nutrients, such as fertilisers, there’s no need to remove the mulch, simply spread it across in late winter and the rain will wash it down to the roots.


Mulch build-up can be very hard, which makes it difficult for the water to penetrate. You can sidestep this by replacing the layer once it’s fully decomposed.


Mulch is relied upon by gardeners across the country and beyond, taking some time to understand how it could work for your garden is a good step towards ensuring that you’re using it effectively.

If you have any questions about mulch or any of our other products, why not contact us on 01584 380 001 to take advantage of our free advice line.